on 08-19-201304:52 PM - last edited on 03-19-201405:17 PM by BBYMartin
Google’s new Chromecast HDMI stick is coming soon to living rooms across Canada.
Google launched this little dongle in the U.S. in July of this year, with a lot of fanfare. Since then they have had difficulty keeping it on the shelf, but is it worth all the hype? Anticipating it soon to be released in Canada, will it be worth waiting for? Preliminary reviews from the US experience so far are interesting and raise a few questions.
How does it work?
Google’s Chromecast is the smallest media-streaming device on the market, and probably the least expensive at only $35 in the US market. I may be naïve, but I can only assume the Canadian pricing will be similar. The Chromecast dongle plugs into the HDMI port of your TV and is controlled by your smartphone, tablet, or computer. Setup is extremely easy – all you do is plug it into your TV, connect it to your home wireless network, and start streaming content directly through your TV as long as you have already downloaded the available apps.
The Chromecast HDMI dongle requires power to operate, so it comes with a cable that plugs into an USB port in the back of your TV. If you don’t have a USB port on your TV it also comes with a USB power adapter that you can plug into a power outlet.
One feature I really like about Chromecast is that it doesn’t have its own remote control. Instead it uses your IOS or Android device to control what you stream on your TV.
The last thing anyone needs is yet another remote control for their electronics!
However, the only problem is if you have a Blackberry or Windows phone or tablet, it won’t work with those devices.
To illustrate how Chromecast works, just launch Netflix on your tablet (or your computer or smartphone) and pick a movie or TV show that you want to watch. Instead of watching it on your tablet just push a new “cast” button on Netflix and it will now stream on your TV. Since Chromecast is connected directly to the cloud through your wireless network, it doesn’t stream through your tablet. This frees up your tablet for anything else, like checking emails, browsing the Internet, etc, at the same time you use the tablet to control the movie you are watching – pause, fast forward, change the volume, etc.
The other really nice thing is that it syncs across all your devices, so let’s say you don’t finish watching the movie when you go to any device you can start watching exactly where you left off.
The biggest shortfall of Chromecast is there is very little content currently available to stream. Only Netflix and Youtube are available and if you are using an Android device you also have Google Music and Google TV and Movies. They all work essentially the same - pull up the app on your smartphone, tablet, or computer and simply push a new “cast” button to stream to your TV. Since these four apps stream directly to your TV from the cloud, the image and sound quality is excellent.
Chromecast can also get content on your TV by mirroring your device, but it can only do so using the Chrome Internet browser on your device. Because this mirroring is streaming through your device, and not directly from the cloud, there seems to be a big problem with the quality. Often the video is lagging, or occasionally dropping out or even freezing. Although the mirroring provides the ability to stream more content the quality really seems to be suspect.
Conclusion: Chromecast is going to get a lot of attention (just like it did in the US) when it launches in Canada because it is so inexpensive compared to other streaming devices, plus the fact it is “Google” after all. It is a very small, simple device that is easy to set-up and use and it is great that you can use your smartphone, tablet, or computer to control whatever you stream on your TV.
Although it has these positive features, I don’t think it is worth more than what they are charging for it. The old adage “you get what you pay for” is well at work here. As I mentioned, the screen mirroring is not very good so you will only get quality streaming through the four apps that are available through Android devices. For Apple users, only two apps are available, which is a far cry from what you can do with other streaming devices like Apple TV or Roku.
At the low price introduced in the US, it verges on being an impulse buy so I guess you don’t have much to lose by getting one. One big advantage it has, being so small and inexpensive, is that you could take it on the road to ensure you always have decent entertainment in your hotel room. Since it is Google I am sure that much more content will eventually be available, but they do have a long way to go to catch up to the others – so don’t hold your breath quite yet.
I love to try new technologies and I have a practical approach to techie stuff - it has to be easy to use and make my life better. I have my house fully wired, with a surround sound system in my family room for music and TV viewing, but also drive music throughout the house as well as outdoors. I Internet stream content on all my devices at home, which provides a huge variety of entertainment to enjoy.